Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Jeesh... How Many Cogs To Make A Wheel Turn?

Take a look at this email to Columbia's Director of Development Services today. Mr. Anders wrote this in response to a long Memo some of us received earlier this morning.

His email is insightful and thought worthy, to say the least. On another hand, this is a good illustration of how specific this sort of thing gets, how hard it is to please everyone and why the political process takes SO DANG LONG...!

See below. FJ


Have any of the following been discussed with staff?

1. Exemption of major corridors that line designated districts (North Main, Rosewood, Bull Street, Millwood, Etc.)? Seems that some single family homes on these major streets would be functionally obsolete and may create blight and is not "highest and best use".

2. Modern Design with-in districts? If the guidelines had been in place years ago we might not have the "Robot House" on Forest Drive or the Mcgee-Degenhart House on Harden St.. While Disney-esque copies of bungalows are sometimes nice, that is not the only design vernacular in the world. Has The Columbia Design League been consulted?

3.Have any of the findings from the "affordable housing task force" been considered and put into possible solutions? They should be a major voice in this.

4. Has staff discuss the possibility of Easing the requirement of "50 years" to maybe say 80 years and a "spot zoning designation" structures deemed worthy by Historic Columbia from the 1930's thru the 1970's. To me, a fifty year window means we could lose several great examples of 1950, 60's and 70's architecture (tomorrows history).

The article you included I think perfectly touches on the problems here. How do we protect homes of historical significance in Shandon, Heathwood, Elmwood Park while not shutting down redevelopment in North Columbia. Would the small, post war homes on the back side of Rosewood (and elsewhere) be placed into preservation districts? (I think we along North Main we have four neighborhoods that would qualify for Historic Designation - Seminary Ridge, Windemere Springs, Hyatt Park and College Place).


Rhett Anders
Windemere Springs N.A.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Cool Heads, But Subtle Political Undertones Too...

Some are playing checkers, some are playing chess. Either way, this continues to get interesting...

I went to the meeting in Columbia City Council Chambers today. The meeting was a little slow, and some of the comments were very repetitive, but overall it was very interesting.

Mayor Bob invited two builder/developers to the floor. They (one being Dorsey) presented a pretty good plan. It needs to be tweaked a little, but it is a great start. The biggest cog in its wheel is that an owner/builder/developer must post something on a property 15 days before any action can take place on the subject property.

Some sort of a 5 member review committee will then hear the plans from the owner/builder before an action can take place. My guess is that this committee will have more than 5 members when all is said and done. A second guess is that one of the members will be a revolving one, depending on which neighborhood a particular home or lot is in. I thought this was a good idea, until a permanent one can be found for Columbia.

One example of a good point was from a Rosewood resident. She noted that when one sells a backyard of a property, both properties very often lose the "drive in" driveways that the original property enjoyed. This makes for double the number of cars that must then park on the street. She made a great illustration saying that, because of the plethora of cars, there are many times that a fire-truck could not pass through her street.

If you are a political person (you would have to be to notice this), the best (but subtle) exchange came at the end. Mrs. Gergel stood up and said some very repetitive, but fine thoughts. However, she prefaced her thoughts, saying to the chamber that she never called for a "moratorium" on building. Hmmmm. I immediately wrote a note to the person seated to my left saying, "Belinda (Gergel) is trying to look like the big winner in all of this." In my opinion, if Brian (Boyer) was going to flank this attempt, he needed to get to a reporter immediately. Immediately! If he didn't, the press could have run with this and probably would have reported how Belinda has protected our neighborhoods. Instead, Brian took the microphone and reminded the crowd that Mrs. Gergel did indeed call for a complete moratorium (which would effectively shut down many industries, and act as an all out job killer). If Boyer had not reached the press fast, or grabbed the microphone in that moment, he may have been a victim of a good ole' political two step. We will see how it plays in tomorrow's (Wed) news...

Today, both sides had good points and cool heads. Stay tuned to see if these same heads can stay below Columbia's summer heat...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Meeting About Moratorium and McMansions is Set for Tuesday at 1pm. See below...

This is an email that many of us received the other day from Columbia's Zoning Adminstrator... FJ

Subject: Update RE: August 21st Meeting

Good evening . . . it has become apparent that we could not get a committee organized to determine interim measures about subdivisions, demolitions, and McMansions before the September 5th City Council meeting. As such, the meeting on Tuesday, August 21, 2007 at 1 p.m. in City Council Chambers will be open for any and all persons to express their opinion about interim measures regarding subdivisions, demolitions, and McMansions, or any other related topic, and Mayor Coble will be present. Then, at the regular City Council meeting on September 5, 2007, the City Council will conduct a public hearing and discuss interim measures as well as the formation of a task force to work on permanent solutions to the above issues.

To those persons who responded after the initial announcement about the August 21st meeting, we thank you for your feedback. While we apologize for any inconvenience this shift in process may cause, it is most important that the process provides opportunity for as many people as possible to express their opinions.

With best regards,
Marc S. Mylott, AICP
Director of Development Services / Zoning Administrator
City of Columbia

Monday, August 13, 2007


There is a huge battle brewing between two factions concering "in-filling" downtown Columbia real estate. Get ready. This will get ugly in the name of each party's definition of "beauty."

If you haven't seen, read or heard, Belinda Gergel wasted no time in grabbing the microphone for her cause (she is running for city council), calling for a 6 month moratorium on various building/tear down projects in the city. Ben Arnold's demo job of the 78 year old Heathwood farmhouse was the springboard for her to screw a deadbolt in this plank of her political platform. Who can blame her?

On the other side are many developers, builders, contractors and tradesmen. These folks firmly believe that what they do is good for downtown Columbia (Enter Brian Boyer's city council bid). They have a great point. For example, I'm not sure the new Rosewood, would be what it is today without some creative development and risk taking builders in-filling and tearing down old junk, and replacing them with fresh 2005'ish style homes. Go ask anyone that has lived in Columbia, SC for over 20 years if they would ever think that a house in Rosewood would fetch over $130.00/ft. They would look at you like you had 7 heads. Well, welcome to the new Rosewood. Furthermore, the new Columbia, SC.

A meeting has been called by local developers/builders at 1:00, Tuesday. The purpose is to build a response to Mrs. Gergel's proposal. To listen and learn, I will be there with bells on.

This is probably another case of both sides being "right," if even a little bit. Having said this, I'll wager that we can find a better way. I hope that this fight stays within the bounds of being for the greater good, and not simply a political football. If nothing else, a full scale moratorium is a job killer, which I hope no one wants.

I have to inject that I have sold many Columbia homes that were in need of improvement. I must say too, that I am glad that I did. An improvement in my personal examples have been just that, an improvement.

More to come...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Another Cockaboose Is For Sale...for $395,000

I called a Cockaboose owner today. He verified that his Cockaboose is for sale for $395,000. I forgot the number, but it is on the Bluff Rd. side of the stadium. This is on the opposite side of the garnet/black train from 'boose #4, which has been listed for a while at $309,000.

I will keep everyone informed of the sales status of these two properties. If either one of these Seller's get their asking prices (you never know!), there may be a fundamental shift in Cockaboose sales.

I'll also find out if the new one for sale comes with a parking spot. Cockaboose #4 does not.

Very interesting, but either way...Go Cocks!